I grew up in within the Baptist theological tradition of the Christian faith. Through circumstances orchestrated by God, I spent some time within the Wesleyan tradition. This is the theological stream that resulted from the ministry and teaching of John Wesley. There are a few differences between these two traditions, too many to outline. I also don’t want to do an injustice to either by trying to summarize them inadequately here. So, I would like to identify one idea that has become increasingly valuable to me on my Christian Journey. That idea is that of Sacrament.
I would like to share some of my ideas and meditations on this word. This is not going to be a rigid distillation of what Wesleyan’s believe on the subject of sacraments. It is my interpretation and application of the concept.
The word sacrament is found in Christian traditions that have a view of God’s activity that is, in my opinion, “closer to us.” What I mean by this is that for those who have a sacramental view of the world they hold to the idea that God is very active in their lives and in the world. God is near to us. And he is at work in and around the activities of our lives.
Most of us are familiar with at least two sacraments—baptism and The Lord’s Supper. Some traditions have more, as many as seven. But virtually every Christian tradition celebrates or performs these two. One of the lessons I took away from my time within the Wesleyan stream was that a sacrament was a “sacred moment,” a moment when God would inject himself in a special way into what we, as his people, were doing. To use the Lord’s Supper as an example, I learned that in celebrating the meal God was “doing something” in and through these ordinary elements of bread and juice. It was a mystery how and what that something that was happening took place, but as people of faith, we believed that God instituted this meal and therefore promised to bless the faithful repetition and participation of it.
I don’t mean for this to be difficult, but I know it can be. Even for someone like me, someone who has to know how something works in order to be happy, I can appreciate the difficulty in understanding what God is doing when we engage in this event. What I will say is that while I can’t fully explain what God is doing, I know after years of practicing this sacrament, I know that God is doing something. Once I learned that God wants to meet with us in these sacred moments, when I accepted that God desired to draw near to us, when this shift took place, something changed inside of me. I became more aware of God’s presence in my life.
The purpose of a sacrament is not to explain. The purpose of a sacrament is to engage and connect the believer with God. And when we approach the sacraments with this posture, that connection can take place. It’s not a guarantee, but the chances go up considerably. While I still consider myself to be a Baptist, I have become far more sacramental that I was before.
Lent is a good time to look at how we see God’s presence and activity in our lives. Do we want more of God or are we satisfied with what we have? I hope you want more!